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Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is a National Park Service site located in the north eastern corner of Washington, D.C., and the near Maryland state border. Nestled near the banks of the Anacostia River and directly west of the Baltimore–Washington Parkway, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens preserves a plethora of rare water lilies and lotuses in the cultivated ponds near the river. The park also contains the Kenilworth Marsh, the largest remaining tidal marsh in Washington, D.C., and an adjacent recreational area. Within Kenilworth Park, which is a typical city park complete with athletic fields, is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the only National Park Service-owned property dedicated to water plants. 

Kenilworth Park Aquatic Gardens


The land that is now Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens originally was purchased by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw in the 1880s. Feeling homesick, Shaw had wild water lilies native to his home state of Maine brought and planted in the land. When the flowers Shaw brought thrived in the environment, Shaw brought in more plants and started a commercial attraction under the name W.B. Shaw Lily Ponds in 1912. In 1921, when Shaw died, his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, took over the prospering business which was being visited by many dignitaries, including U.S. presidents. Unfortunately, by this time the nearby Anacostia River had become filled with an excess of silt making navigation on the river difficult. The United States Army Corps of Engineers was called in to dredge the river which meant that the gardens were in danger of being destroyed. Helen fought to save the gardens and eventually in 1938, U.S. Congress authorized the purchase of the gardens for $15,000 to create the park.


In 1942, the area of today's park located south of the gardens was selected by the congressionally-appointed Washington, Federal Capital City DC government as the site for a municipal dump, in which trash was burned in open piles. The Kenilworth Dump was closed in the 1970s. Considerable environmental remediation work is needed in this area; for this reason, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail was routed through the adjacent neighborhood until remediation is complete. 

Today, the park is under the administrative portion of National Capital Parks-East of the National Park Service. The total area of the park is about 700 acres (2.8 km2) large and constitutes the water gardens, Kenilworth Marsh, ballfields, and recreational facilities. The gardens have since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also designated a Category II Landmark by the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital. Portions of Kenilworth Marsh have also undergone restoration in 1992-1993, adding 32 acres (130,000 m2) of tidal marsh out of what was mud flats.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Center

Your Tour of This Washington DC Attraction

Begin your visit to the park at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Visitor Center where you can learn about water lilies and lotuses. Afterwards, tour the gardens along various paths that run between the forty-four ponds. If you want to see the marsh, take a short boardwalk that begins at the back left corner of the gardens.

There is also a trail that connects to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a paved, multi-use path that is open to hikers, bikers, and those on roller skates.


The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Visitor Center is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM from April 1st through October 31st, and from 8 AM to 3:30 PM the rest of the year and the garden grounds are open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM from April 1st through October 31st, and from 8 AM to 4 PM the rest of the year. Park gates close for entry one hour before official closing time, which gives visitors at least one hour to see the gardens. The sports fields and grounds of Kenilworth Park are open daily from 8 AM to dusk. The entire park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.


There is no fee to tour the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens or to join scheduled Ranger activities. It is absolutely free of charge.

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